Visits to some of the wonderful area hotels, their amenities, and foodie offerings!

What are your plans for Christmas?

Every year, my family dines at one of the Rosen Hotels for their Christmas Day buffet and we take a picture with Mr. Rosen himself, pictured above.  It’s become a family tradition of ours ever since we met him during a Christmas Day buffet back in 2014 when he greeted our table and asked us how we were doing.  My mom immediately recognized him from reading about him in the papers and asked him if he was Mr. Rosen and he confirmed and allowed us to take a picture with him.  He’s seriously the best.

Life came back to a full circle when I was invited to attend Rosen Hotels & Resorts’ first-ever Holiday Night of Lights media event to preview what each hotel is doing for their Christmas Day buffet & holiday events this year.  The night started with all 50 bloggers and friends hopping onto a snazzy two-story bus (our “sleigh” for the night that was generously donated by City Sightseeing Tours Orlando) to visit all 7 Rosen properties and see their holiday lights, with delicious bites at each stop.

Photo credit: Rosen Hotels & Resorts

At Rosen Hotels, their attention to detail is always impeccable, nothing ever gets overlooked and the customer service is top-notch.  I am so looking forward to making it out to the Christmas Day buffet at one of the Rosen Hotels this year with my family.

First Stop – Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista for chocolate peppermint mocktinis, Santa Claus mopolitan, crab cakes, caprese skewers, dunking donut station, sweets, and a tour of the beautiful Bella Vista event venue.

Second Stop – Rosen Inn Closest to Universal for a hibachi performance from the Shogun chefs (I wasn’t able to get a picture of them in action because they were super fast) and sushi & sake from the Sakura Bar.

Third Stop Rosen Inn International for “The Rosen Tree” lighting, cesar salad cups and sweet & spicy meatballs

Fourth Stop – Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando for selfies with an elfie, chicken wellington, mushroom puff and Christmas cookie

Fifth Stop – Rosen Plaza – for a sneak preview of the upcoming Dec. 15 Iced Out! event (free to the public), an ice luge with a signature cocktails, fig & manchego lollipops, lobster corndogs and baby lamb chops prepared by Executive Chef Michael and team.

Sixth Stop – Rosen Centre – for a greeting by Christmas carolers, a real gingerbread house, Harry’s ropa vieja empanada, pineapple ceviche, strawberry cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, and drinks from Harry’s Poolside Bar & Grill

Seventh Stop – Rosen Shingle Creek for a sneak preview of the charity trees (which will be displayed in the hotel’s grand lobby) decorated by 24 local non-profits throughout Orlando, and a festive mix and mingle with the hotel and charity partners.

Thanks Mr. Rosen for hosting us in such a family way!

Fresh and delicious piña colada

We were invited to The Ritz-Carlton for an end of the summer pool bash at Bleu Pool Bar showcasing their new Latin & Caribbean inspired menu.  The food was excellent and the service was phenomenal.  The frozen drinks are always prepared with the freshest ingredients.

BLEU Nachos – Green Chile / Queso Blanco / Jalapeños / Cilantro Crema Guacamole / Pico de Gallo Roasted Salsa

Signature Tacos – Grilled Flour Tortilla / Cilantro Slaw / Roasted Salsa / Crema / Queso Fresco / Pique Verde

Carne Asada – Papaya-Marinated Skirt Steak

Chicken Verde – Roasted Chicken

Crispy Avocado – Tempura-Fried Avocado

BLEU Salad – Mixed Greens / Spiced Tostone / Heirloom Tomatoes / Feta / Crispy Quinoa / Breakfast Radish / Pickled Sweet Onion / Passion Fruit Dressing

Florida Tropical – 
Spinach & Lolla Rossa / Avocado / Mango / Pomegranate / Almonds / Creamy Coconut-Lime Vinaigrette

Conch Fritters – Homemade Jamaican Jerk Aioli

Ceviche – 
Ahi Tuna / Avocado / Mango Salsa / Plantain Chips

Make Your Own Sweet Taco – Assorted Toppings

Tada!!!  What a beautiful ice sculpture!

Be sure to check out the new menu at Bleu the next time you are at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando!

Bleu at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 206-2400

We were recently invited to visit Clearwater Beach by the lovely folks at Wyndham Rewards to check out their Ocean Hai restaurant at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, recently awarded Four Diamonds by AAA.

The restaurant has a strong emphasis on seafood and pan-Asian cuisine featuring sumptuous sushi and sashimi platters to succulently pan-seared sea bass, all prepared under the culinary eye of Executive Chef Sean Ragan. Dishes are prepared with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, including seafood and farm-raised meats and poultry.

Chef Sean Ragan has over 25 years of professional experience in the hospitality and restaurant industries, previously working at Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl Resort.

Throughout his career, he had been handpicked to train with highly regarded chefs such as Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme and Martin Yan, and cooked for other top restaurants including Oystercatchers under Chef Hans Hickel and Innisbrook Golf Resort and Spa as Executive Sous Chef. Most recently, Chef Ragan was named the 2015 Best Chef of Clearwater Beach – and the fine dishes at Ocean Hai live up to his curriculum vitae.

Born in New York, Chef Ragan was exposed to a melting pot of flavors and cultures, developing a passion for cooking and global cuisine. He received his degree with honors in Culinary Arts and Hotel Restaurant Management in 1994 from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He is also ACF Certified, a recipient of the honored Le Cordon Bleu Medallion and belongs to the historic and distinguished Chaine des Rotisseurs and Societe Mondiale du Vin.

On our visit, we experienced the Omakase – “Chef’s Choice” – multi course tasting menu designed to allow guests to experience a sample of all of Ocean Hai’s cuisine. The cost is usually $75 per person with an optional $25 add on for wine pairings to go along with the dishes.

The first dish of the evening: Lobster Fried Rice, a decidedly elevated take on the traditional fried rice, with delicate pieces of lobster, saffron rice, crispy shallots, and topped with a sunny side up egg. I could not get enough of this dish!

Our second dish of the evening was the Tetsubin Miso Soup – the humble miso soup is brought to new heights here, with smoky charred tofu and smoked mussel, and finished tableside with a pour over from a hot kettle with dashi miso broth miso.

The next course, a delightful compressed watermelon salad that was truly a work of art – cubed, pressed watermelon, heirloom tomato, marinated feta cheese, slices of cucumbers, dollops of basil pesto, and some soy gastrique drizzle. It sings of summer.

To highlight their sushi, we tried their nigiri sushi sampler, with ultra-fresh slices of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail fish that had me reminiscing some time ago in Tokyo, Japan.

For the entree, my dining partner had the pan-seared then broiled Asian Sea Bass, a succulent flaky sea bass with a nice crisp from the pan sear, on top of black Forbidden rice with some sugar snap peas, shiitake mushrooms, and microgreens.

My entree was the Mongolian Lamb Chops, perfectly seared and delicious chops of lamb, accented by a dash of Chinese five spice, and served alongside roasted eggplant, baby bok choy, and crystalized ginger.

The evening ended on a high note – dessert that was playful and delightful – ube / purple yam “twinkie” and deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. Art on a plate. From start to finish, Ocean Hai soared to new heights in Asian cuisine.

Lobster Fried Rice | Saffron Rice | Peas & Carrot | Sunny Side Egg | Crisp shallot | Sweet Soy 20

Tetsubin Miso Soup | Dashi Broth | Smoked Mussel | Charred Tofu | Wakame 9

Compressed Watermelon | Heirloom Tomato | Marinated Feta | Cucumber | Basil Pesto | Soy Gastrique 11

Nigiri Sampler – Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail Nigiri SushiAsian Sea Bass | Forbidden Rice | Sugar Snap | Shiitake Mushroom | Micro Green 38

Mongolian Lamb Chops | Roasted Eggplant | Baby Bok Choy | Edamame Yogurt | Crystalized ginger 42

Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake DessertPurple Ube Twinkies

If you do come to Ocean Hai, make sure to plan to have dinner while the sun sets over the shimmering waters of the Gulf.

From Wyndham Rewards

  • Wyndham Rewards recognizes ordinary, hard working men and women for what they do every day. From the annual vacationer to the frequent traveler, no matter how often our members stay with us, they are all united under the same loyalty program.
  • Go free – With just 15,000 points, you’ve earned a free night at any Wyndham Rewards hotel. 15,000 points = a free night. It’s that simple.
  • Go fast – Get a room night at a Wyndham Rewards hotel for just 3,000 points, plus some cash.
  • Go get ‘em – For every qualified stay you’ll get 10 points for every dollar or 1,000 points, whichever is more.
  • Wyndham Rewards: InstagramTwitterFacebookOfficial Website 
  • Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach: InstagramTwitterFacebookOfficial Website 
  • Official Hashtags: #WyndhamGrand, #WyndhamGrandClearwaterBeach, #LiveGrand, #GrandLife

Stay and dinner at Ocean Hai provided by Wyndham Rewards and Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. All other views are my own.

Guacamole – Roasted corn relish, naan chips, Parmesan cheese

Dine in Plancha today through Saturday, July 14 and enjoy a complimentary guacamole appetizer & mojito (can be made virgin as well) with a purchase of an entrée in honor of National Mojito Day!  What an awesome deal!  The food and drinks there are really good!

Plancha is a Cuban-American restaurant located in the stylish Tranquil Golf Clubhouse at Four Seasons Orlando, just a few minutes away from Disney Springs.  They are open daily from 11am-6pm.  You do not need a hotel reservation to dine there. They have ample parking spots in their lot.

Loco Coconut Mojito – Rumhaven, Brugal 1988, lime, mint

Plancha Mojito – Barcardi, Prosecco, lime, mint

Virgin Orange Blossom Mojito

Churrasco – Skirt steak, chimichurri, mixed greens, yucca fries

Tuna Tartare – Avocado, ginger coconut vinaigrette, tostones, jalapeño, red onions, micro greens

Plancha Burger – Chorizo & beef patty, maduros, white cheddar, tomato, lettuce, cumin aioli 


Traditional Flan – Caña sugar caramel, strawberry, kiwi, blueberries, and mini chocolate disk

Be sure to stop by Plancha soon for FREE guacamole & mojito before the deal ends this Saturday, July 14!

Plancha Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort
10100 Dream Tree Boulevard Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 313-7777

Seafood Linguine – Lobster meat, scallops, shrimp, calvados, cream

There is just something calming about dining to the smell of saltwater with the view of the ocean in front of you.  We were invited to Daytona Beach’s newest beachfront hotel and the fourth Hard Rock Hotel in Florida to check out their restaurant, Sessions, and stay overnight.  Our experience at Sessions was exceptional.  The food, service and energy was unlike any other media event that I have ever been to.  Our server named Pastor was fantastic.  I give Sessions 5-stars!

Dining at Sessions restaurant will exceed your expectations.  Luxurious rock-star style, contemporary decor and celebrity-style atmosphere coupled with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean adds to experience.  Dine on unforgettable breakfasts, savory lunch offerings and innovative suppers that will leave you wanting more.  Craft cocktails and libations are also available at Sessions indoor/outdoor bar.

Artisan Charcuterie & Cheese – Mini cornichons, pickled peppers stone mustard, sourdough

Tuna Tartare – Avocado, shallot, scallion, dash soy, wonton chips.  My favorite appetizer!

Crab Cakes – Spicy aioli, cucumber relish

New York Strip – Rainbow carrots, crispy onion, sautéed onions and bell peppers.  It was amazing!

Crème Brûlée – Strawberries, blueberries.  This dessert was perfect, so addicting!

Red Velvet Cheesecake – Philadelphia cream cheese frosting, strawberries, blueberries.  It was beautiful and delicious!

Constant Grind the total café experience, serving up hot and cold drinks, quick bites, house-made gelato, and more.

Take a plunge in the heated pool and enjoy the tunes from the underwater speakers or lounge on the oceanfront pool deck.

Wave Terrace is located on the third floor of Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach.  Wave Terrance is Daytona’s newest experience serving up local beer, craft cocktails and an inspired seafood menu featuring ceviche, gazpacho, fresh seafood towers and straight from the oven bread—in a chic casual atmosphere.  Add glowing fire pits and live music and you have a night out that can only be Hard Rock.


Frank Sinatra impersonator.  He sounded exactly like him!

The kiddie pool is shaped like a guitar

The Elvis impersonator got the crowd rocking the entire night!

Didn’t bring your yoga gear on tour at at Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach? #RockOm you covered. Experience peace of mind in the comfort of your hotel room with a yoga kit that includes a Manduka PROlite yoga mat and convenient Go Play carrier, all delivered to your room free of charge.  A regionally-inspired Yogitoes towel is also available for purchase. On-demand yoga videos are available on your hotel room TV, as well as on your personal device at

Snap a pic of your best yoga pose around the hotel, post to instagram with the hashtag: #RockOm. If your pic is selected, you can win a custom Yogitoes Hard Rock yoga towel.

We throughly enjoyed our stay at Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach and we felt like celebrity rockstars the entire time.  The music-inspired property is only two months old as they just opened on May 1, 2018.  I highly recommend staying at this hotel during your next visit in Daytona Beach, FL!

(Source credit: Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach)

Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach
918 N Atlantic Ave, Daytona Beach, FL 32118
(386) 947-7300

A significant number of travelers desire a unique and delicious culinary experience while on vacation. Because of this, we are incredibly excited to announce Reunion Resort’s “Taste Of Eleven” menu where guests can experience a taste of Eleven from Monday through Thursday, from 5:30pm – 7pm.  Choose an appetizer, entree and dessert for only $29 per person (plus tax and gratuity).  This special menu is the perfect way to explore the restaurant’s food and breathtaking views at an amazing value.

Eleven is located on the 11th floor of Reunion Resort.  Views of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot fireworks are available nightly from the restaurant.

My mom & I in the resort lobby.

The clean and spacious bar.

Breathtaking landscape views from the restaurant’s dining area.

Glass doors provide access to the resort’s rooftop pool.

Complimentary Bread & Butter

Crispy Calamari – Chorizo, Pickled Chiles, Broiled Lime

Sherried Onion Soup – Gruyere, Sourdough Crostini

Baseball Sirloin – Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus

Cedar Planked Salmon

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée – Fresh Seasonal Fruit Compote

Raspberry Cheesecake – Garden Berry Coulis

Eleven is a very nice restaurant with good food and a beautiful rooftop view.  The manager Kyle and our lovely server Raquel treated us like rock stars.  Be sure to check their “Taste of Eleven” menu from Monday through Thursday, from 5:30pm – 7pm!

(Source credit: Eleven)

7593 Gathering Dr, Kissimmee, FL 34747
(407) 396-5290

Beets & Burrata – Cherry tomatoes, radish, beech mushrooms, white balsamic

We were invited to Four Seasons Resort Orlando to check out the new menu items at PB&G, short for pool bar & grill.  The restaurant has added several new healthy options, perfect for those who prefer to eat on the cleaner side and/or those who are currently working on their summer bod!

Fruit & Berries – Bourbon vanilla granola, lemon honey Greek yogurt, coconut.  The granola had bourbon vanilla in it and it tasted really great!

Watermelon & Prosciutto – Pressed watermelon, herbed goat cheese, prosciutto, marinated blueberries, arugula

BLTA – Smoked bacon, bibb lettuce, tomato, avocado, parmesan cheese vinaigrette.  This was the best salad that I’ve ever had!  The bacon was perfection. 

Herb-Citrus Shrimp – Grilled pineapple, spinach, baby kale, quinoa, red union, cucumber, feta cheese, red wine vinaigrette

Seared Ahi Tuna – Kale, cabbage, cucumber, jicama, mango, crispy wontons, wasabi ginger cream, sesame vinaigrette

Lobster Roll – Avocado, tomato, remoulade, Hawaiian roll.  The crab is 100% real, 100% delicious!  Omit ketchup and fries to make it healthier.

Chirashi Bowl – Spicy tuna poke, salmon poke, sushi rice, avocado, soy glazed mushrooms, cucumber, edamame, carrot, seaweed salad, spicy mayo

S’mores for dessert!  Because life is all about balance, right?

Kudos to our talented and wonderful chefs!  We really enjoyed our meal.


Upcoming Events at Four Seasons Orlando Resort:

Saturday, 06.09
Global Wellness Day
8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Enjoy special fitness classes for Global Wellness Day, plus spa treatments and a healthy cooking demo and lunch.


Sunday, 06.17
Father’s Day Brunch at Plancha Restaurant
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Three course brunch (appetizer buffet, choice of entree, dessert buffet), bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary for $68 per person.  Dads will receive a choice of a complimentary bourbon or complimentary cigar.


Four Seasons Resort Orlando
10100 Dream Tree Boulevard
(407) 313-7777

Dry aged New York strip – certified Angus beef prime, textures of sunchoke, petit vegetables, ghost block-huckleberry reduction, black summer truffles.  It was divine!

We were invited to the inaugural Wine & Dine Chef’s Table at American Kitchen Bar & Grill.  This intimate night was dedicated to showcasing the chef’s creativity and talent through an elegant four course tasting menu prepared and served by Executive Chef Venoy Rogers III.  We also had a Certified Sommelier Daniel Castillo taking us through a journey of fine wine pairings.

American Kitchen Bar & Grill is a rustic-chic eatery offering New American eats using a farm-to-table concept.  They source local and sustainable product whenever possible and grow their own greens and herbs as well.  Their menu is a melting pot of multiple influences and techniques with an artisan approach.

We really enjoyed our experience and food at the inaugural Inaugural Wine & Dine Chef’s Table.  We look forward to more Wine & Dine Chef’s Tables in the near future and we hope you give them a try soon.  They are worth checking out and I heard from many people that their Duck Fat Fries are amazing!

The living garden where they harvest all their greens and herbs used that are used to create their signature dishes.

Amuse bouche – foie gras donut.

Certified angus beef tartare – local organic quail egg, capers, Florida citrus, spent grain croutons, cured lake meadows natural egg yolk, garlic flowers, Dijon.

This dish was amazing and it blew my mind.  Tartare is usually prepared cyclindar but this one was rectangular and it was a game changer.

Heirloom beets and local goat cheese – whipped turtle creek goat cheese, beet soil, pistachio, spent grain, wild hibiscus, sunflower-poppy seed vinaigrette.

Ak s’mores – chocolate-espresso cremeux, ancho chile marshmallow, cinnamon, served with coffee.

This dessert was inspired by a camp fire.  It really did make me long for being cozied up at a real camp fire with a cup of coffee in one hand and and cooked s’mores in the other.

Michael D. Allen – manager and amazing host.

The talented Executive Chef Venoy Rogers III.

Left to right:

Tara Ifill (manager), Khabeer (our kind and gracious server), Alicia (marketing), Molly Meeker (sales maanger), Daniel Castillo (certified sommelier).

Daniel Castillo – our engaging and interactive certified sommelier.

Many thanks to the American Kitchen Bar & Grill crew for hosting us and their superior hospitality!  We felt like family!  Be sure to check them out soon next time you are in the Disney Springs area!

American Kitchen Bar & Grill
1905 Hotel Plaza Blvd, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 827-3080

Loaded Lobster – 1/2 maine lobster, seafood stuffing, parmesan, breadcrumbs béarnaise sauce

Thank you Orlando magazine for hosting us at deep blu seafood grille at Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek for a delicious 7-course seafood culinary adventure.  We enjoyed diving deep into their new menu and meeting their new head chef, Chef Wade McLamb.

Gazpacho soup

Grilled Florida Peach & Burrata Salad – pickled blueberries, fennel, crispy country ham, honey truffle vinaigrette

Black & blu Linguine – vita squid ink pasta, jumbo lump blu crab, arugula, cherry tomatoes, marcona almonds, parmigiana

Loaded Lobster – 1/2 maine lobster, seafood stuffing, parmesan, breadcrumbs béarnaise sauce

Scalloped potato

George’s Banks Scallops – corn risotto, smoked tomato jam, crispy black eye peas

Red Snapper – local sweet corn succotash, baby herb salad, basil vinaigrette

Ora King Salmon – red quinoa, black eyed pea fritter, cucumber mint crème fraiche

Banana Pudding – Key Lime Pie Pana Cotta, graham shortbread, toasted meringue

Two hardworking chefs, Chef Ryan Cole and Chef Wade McLamb.

deep blu seafood grille at Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek 
14651 Chelonia Pkwy Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 390-2420

Use promo code “Grand Experience” when making reservations for a free dessert or appetizer with the purchase of two dinner entrees (Limit 1 coupon per 2 adults |Valid 5/1/2018-5/31/2018).

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We got invited to check out the 8th Annual Food & Wine Classic at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort.  I had the opportunity to work this two-day event back in 2014 (picture above) and it is a great event filled with lots of wine from around the world and a variety of culinary dishes from pastries to pasta.  Food & Wine Classic also offers eleven one-hour educational seminars if you would like to impress friends with your knowledge of wines, cocktails, beer, pasta-making, cheese pairing or the fine art of sushi and sake.  Due to inclement weather, Saturday’s event was moved inside to the resort’s convention room and the organizers did an amazing job with relocating everything just in time for the event.

Taqueria – Pork Carnitas, Organic Vegetables, Cheddar Cheese, Pico de Gallo, Assorted Hot Sauces – Presented by Picabu

Corzetti Stampati, Lamb Bolognese, Roasted Eggplant, Castelvetrano Olives – Presented by Il Mulino

Dragon Roll – Crispy Shrimp, Tuna, Avocado, Japanese Mayonnaise – Presented by Kimonos

Mac & Cheese – White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Winter Truffle – Presented by Carnival Corner

Thai Chicken Salad, Organic Greens, Green Papaya, Tamarind – Ginger Dressing – Presented by Fresh Mediterranean Market

“Tuna Salad”, Seared Yellowfin Tuna, Yuzu Mayonnaise, Candied Marcona Almonds, Spanish Caper Relish – Presented by bluezoo

Seared Florida Red Snapper, Israeli Cous Cous, Lightly Spiced Lobster Nage, Sous Vide Cipollini Onions – Presented by Garden Grove

Sweet Corn Risotto “Arancini”, Wild Chanterelle Mushrooms, Caper Emulsion – Presented by Cabana Bar and Beach Club

Jäger Schnitzel – Lightly Breaded Pork, Hunters Sauce, Späetzle – Presented by Beer Garden

Riesenbretzel – Warm Pretzel, German Mustard, Obatzda Cheese – Presented by Beer Garden

Bratwurst IM BRöTCHEN Mit Sauerkraut – Patak Bratwurst, Laugen Bread, Housemade Sauerkraut, Potato Salad – Presented by Beer Garden

Oven Roasted Beef Rib Eye, Silky Mashed Potatoes, Sauce Bordelaise – Presented by Shula’s Steak House

Carnival Corner for the kids

Nitro Kettle Corn – Presented by Carnival Corner

Corn Dogs – Presented by Carnival Corner

Funnel Cakes – Presented by Carnival Corner

Brown Butter Maine Lobster Roll Fall Truffle – Presented by Todd English

Southern Pulled Pork Sliders, Apple & Cabbage Slaw, Nashville BBQ, Toasted Sesame Brioche – Presented by The Fountain


Crispy Duck – Steamed Bun, Cucumber, Hoisin

Shanghai Dumpling – Pan Roasted Pork Dumpling, Spicy Sauce

Smoked Spanish Iberico Pork Collar, Celery Root Puree, Toasted Hazelnuts, Fall Truffle – Presented by Cib’s Smoke Shop

Sugar Flower & Vase Art – Presented by Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard

Chocolate Cake Pop – Presented by Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard

Raspberry Ice Cream Filled Profiterole – Hot Chocolate Sauce, Raspberry Whipped Cream & Crisp Pearls – Presented by Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard

Mandarin Comfit – Presented by Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard

Vanilla Caramel Cream – Presented by Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard

Zombie dancers

Live music by Atlantic City Boys

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort     1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 934-4000

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Highball & Harvest of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando hosted its inaugural Homestead Harvest, the first annual chef-collaborative dinner at Grande Lakes Orlando’s on-site farm, Whisper Creek Farm. The evening benefited Fleet Farming, a local non-profit organization whose goal is to assist in fostering a movement which moves towards a more sustainable farming and food production system in the region.

Highball & Harvest’s Chef Scott Pizzo and Peter Zampaglione, Executive Chef of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes joined an all-star line-up of local chefs who donated their time and resources to create a once in a lifetime culinary adventure.  I really enjoyed this event and I hope they do it again next year.

Fleet Farming strives to reduce the environmental impact of food production through a pedal-powered, hyperlocal urban farming model that creates a culture of health and vibrant ecosystems by: teaching an intergenerational fleet of volunteers how to grow their own food, activating and re-engaging the community through biweekly Swarm Rides, and creating a breathe free and biodiverse environment through emissions-free, organic farming.

Scott Pizzo, Highball & Harvest
Argentinian Roasted Suckling Pig, charred pumpkin


Kenny Gilbert (Top Chef), Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen/Gilbert’s Social
Smoked Alligator Ribs with SC BBQ Sauce
Field Peas with okra, smoked gator broth, radish, savory herbs and spices 

Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon
Deviled Eggs
Duck Mortadella

James Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig
Wood-Grilled Octopus, black garlic skordalia, roasted beets
Lamb Kofta, quince yogurt, dill pesto

Elek Kovacs, The Osprey Tavern
Pickled Shrimp, chili citrus marinade, fresh garden vegetables
Pheasant, local rice grits, corn succotash

Kevin Fonzo, Kevin Fonzo Foundation
Red Kuri Squash Soup, truffle, Brussels sprouts, pears, apple

Paula DaSilva, Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits at the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
Palmetto Creek Farms Pork Belly, truffle grits & collards
Wahoo Crudo, pickled heirloom tomatoes and chili peppers

John Janucik, JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
Lobster Deviled Duck Egg, house bacon, surplus mustard aioli, chili oil
Smoked Short Rib, butternut squash pierogi, local mushrooms, sour cream
Espuma, horseradish crumbs

Stanley Miller, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami
Lamb and Chorizo Empanada, olive, raisin, pimento
Chilled Heirloom Tomato and Melon “Tea”, Popcorn, Avocado, Lemon Oil

Sebastien Thieffine, The Ritz-Carlton Naples
Daisy – Florida Keys Honey Millefeuille, candied raspberries, crunchy pistachio
Coonies: chocolate chip cookie/brownie bar, salted butter caramel ice cream, vanilla bean gel

Stephane Cheramy, The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
Assorted Pastries

Live music from Brocato Entertainment

(Source credit: Highball & Harvest)

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Each year Omni Hotels’ culinary team travels the globe in search of unique and bold flavors. This year, their quest led them to Chile, where on the Western edge of South America, they discovered rustic flavors,

warm and welcoming people, a compelling landscape and some of the best wines in the world.

Chile’s geographic barriers – the Atacama Desert to the north, the Andes Mountains to the east, the Patagonian ice fields to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west – protect its grape-growing valleys from harsh weather, making it literally, a winemaking paradise.

This year, Omni partnered with Wines of Chile to create a culinary treat presenting a dedicated Chilean dinner and bar menu paired with hand-selected wines that reflect Omni’s utter enchantment with the region. This installment of Omni’s annual “Flavors of the World” culinary series. will be available at properties across the U.S. from October 1 through December 31, 2015.

We were recently invited to check out the upcoming menu as part of a media preview. For more information, visit: and for the full menu, here.

DSC01992MILCAOS CON PEBRE DE PALTA (9) – fried potato cakes topped with avocado, banana pepper, tomato and Chilean sea salt. Great combination of crispy and smoothness.

DSC01974CHACARERITO – Traditional sandwich with beef steak, raw green beans, tomato and banana peppers. The vegetables gave the sandwich multiple layer textures and interest.

DSC01998SOPA DE CHOCLO CON PINO DE CHAMPIÑONES  (8) – Delicious corn soup with mushroom, acorn squash, hard-cooked egg and basil puree. The hard-boiled egg actually worked really well as a solid component in the soup. 


“Pino” chopped beef, onions, hard cooked eggs, raisins and green olive
”Camarón Queso” prawns, cheese and spring onion
“Pequen” traditional country empanada with caramelized onionThe caramelized onion empanada was super savory that you won’t even notice there’s no meat in it. 

DSC02003CHORITOS CON PEBRE (12) – steamed mussels with tomato, onion, bell pepper and cilantro. 

DSC02026BACALAO CON TOMATICÁN (35) – light and flaky seared sea bass with braised tomato, yellow corn and cilantro salad. 

DSC02016COSTILLA CON PURÉ PICANTE (23) – pork ribs slowly cooked in beer and palm honey with potato puré and Chilean smoked chili pepper. There’s a sweetness from the great molasses barbecue sauce as a well a smoked pepper after taste. 

DSC02025QUINNOTO DE CHAMPIÑONES CON PEBRE DE PALTA (19) – golden Chilean quinoa slowly cooked with roasted mushroom and avocado. A ‘healthier’ opt from the regular risotto. 


ARROZ CON LECHE Y SALSA DE MANJAR (7) – short grain rice cooked with milk, cinnamon, orange and dulce de leche. I’m not a huge pudding person, but this I can do. 

DSC02046TRES LECHES CAKE (7) – sponge cake soaked with three milks and served with fresh strawberries. Probably one of the best Tres Leches I’ve had, and I believe it’s the difference in the top layer of whipped cream. Extremely light and fluffy and not overwhelming to pair with the decadent layers that are on the bottom.

DSC01967PISCO SOUR (10) – Capel Premium Pisco, lemon juice, sugar and crushed ice mixed together to create this Chilean classic cocktail. 

Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate
(407) 390-6664
1500 Masters Blvd, Champions Gate, FL, 33896

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Chef Mark Jeffers, Chef de Cuisine of the newly opened Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton, was born in Port Orange Florida, but spent a lot of time in North Carolina while he was growing up. You can see much of the influence from his upbringing in his cooking today.

Recently, we had the chance to interview Chef Jeffers for our new series, the Orlando Chef’s Spotlight Series, about his past adventures to the future at Highball & Harvest.

“I started cooking at a young age, and always had a knack for “concoctions” as I used to call them.” Chef Jeffers told us recently through an e-mail correspondence.


He later moved to Tallahassee for college and bar tended in a martini bar while going to school. He grew to love the process of combining different and unusual (at the time) flavors in drinks.

“Creating balance of flavor/acidity/depth in a cocktail is essentially the same thing.”

He eventually took a leap and moved to Orlando to go to Le Cordon Bleu, and used that as a jumping platform to land a job at the Ritz-Carlton at Orlando Grande Lakes Resort, spending the next 6 years working his way around the hotel at various capacities from Supervisor, Sous Chef, Banquet Chef, Chef Tounant, and now Chef de Cuisine at Highball and Harvest.

What are some of your favorite dishes on the new menu?
I love the Grouper dish. It is so simple, yet the flavor combination is really delicious. The rich and spicy Hominy ragout with Andouille sausage, Perfectly blackened grouper, finished with lemon juice and parsley, and the Pickled Okra to help create a balance for the creamy sauce is fantastic.

What are you planning for the coming fall and winter season?
I also love the my new baby back rib dish I put on the menu. Smoked Ribs, that I finish in the oven for a pull-apart tender texture. I made an apple sorghum BBQ sauce that creates a beautiful candied lacquer. I paired them with my southern interpretation of a good German spaetzel (“Baby Dumplings”) and braised red cabbage (red wine cabbage)

H&H Baby Back Ribs
H&H Baby Back Ribs

Another favorite new dish that just made the menu is my Southern Style Surf-n-Turf. Citrus Brined Cobia, Braised Pork Belly, Squash Puree, Brussel Sprout Slaw. A beautifully balanced dish fit for the fall.

H&H Surf & Turf
H&H Surf & Turf

The last 2 dishes that I mentioned are new additions to my fall menu, but a few other things I’m working on include….a Braised Lamb Shank, Creamy Grits, and Carolina Mushrooms. Another nice dish is my crispy skinned trout with spaghetti squash and sunchoke puree with sorghum popcorn.

H&H Back Porch Ceviche
H&H Back Porch Ceviche

I also added my interpretation of a ceviche- Back-Porch Ceviche: Royal Red Canaveral Shrimp, Pickled Tomatoes and Sweet Potato Chips from Whisper Creek Farm (on property)


Where do you dine when not at Highball and Harvest?
My favorite restaurants in Orlando to go to when I’m not at H&H are Prato, Hawkers, and The Ravenous Pig, but I have a soft spot in my heart/stomach for authentic Mexican.

There is a tiny hole in the wall taco place near work off OBT called El Tenampa – $1.50 tacos with tripe, beef tongue (lengua), belly, and all the typical other meat choices. Super simple with 2 soft corn tortillas cilantro and minced onions. Another perk is that they always have 2 for 1 margaritas. ( I recommend knowing a little Spanish if you go….This place is REALLY authentic if you know what I mean)

What are some interesting facts about yourself that most people might not know?

  • I’ve been chased by a bear in Canada (maybe provoked)
  • I HATE sharks (but used to surf at the shark bite capital of the world…New Smyrna Beach)
  • Somewhere out there, there is a video of me breakdancing…Hope that never surfaces (long time ago)
  • I secretly want to have Bear Gryll’s life.
  • My dream job involves a cooking show

Growing up, what were some of your favorite childhood eats?
My mom used to make all different kinds of casseroles that she found in magazines and cookbooks. Some were better than others, but the highlights were a chicken pot pie casserole and a tuna noodle casserole. My dad used to love making fried chicken on the weekend, (while my mom made herself a grilled chicken). Really Good.

My go-to sandwich I would make for myself was a pan fried bologna sandwich with American cheese on toasted white bread with pickle relish and mustard.


Highball & Harvest
The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL

(407) 393-4422
Daily – 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Bar – Daily – 11 a.m. – Midnight

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Food and Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek: A Celebration of Fine Wine & Culinary Arts

– Weekends through November 9, 2014

With the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival going on right now at Disney World, local area hotels have started to prepare their own special food-themed events around this 53 day event,the perfect complement for visiting as well as local food lovers.

Many are familiar with the Swan and Dolphin’s Food and Wine Classic Weekends, but not so many are as familiar with the new Food and Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Last year, we had the opportunity to preview the entire list of Waldorf and Hilton Food and Wine Weekend events and were blown away by the high quality food that we encountered on our adventure from the sushi at Zeta Bar’s Art of Sushi to inarguably one of the best restaurants in Orlando, Bull and Bear restaurant.

Food & Wine Weekends events are being held from September 19 through November 9, 2014.

Weekend Highlights

Global Venture – a Wine Pairing Dinner


Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm, Bull & Bear Restaurant

Experience an exclusive 3-course tasting menu comprised of exquisite food and wine pairings from around the world – prepared by the illustrious chefs of Waldorf Astoria Orlando. $110 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

Reservations are required by calling 407-597-5413 or clicking here.

Preview menu for September 19-20
Preview menu for September 26-27
Preview menu for October 3-4
Preview menu for October 10-11
Preview menu for October 17-18
Menus for October 24-25, October 31, November 1, and November 7-8 will post as they become available.

Cibo Della Vita

Friday & Saturday, 5pm – 11pm, La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

From the kitchen of La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, each weekend a tasting menu and wine pairing will be featured. This series of culinary experiences is certain to be the talk of the town! Pricing Varies. Reservations recommended. Call 407-597-3600.
Preview menu for September 19 & 20, 26 & 27; October 17 & 18, 24 & 25
Preview menu for October 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 31; November 1, 7 & 8

Bar du Chocolat and Champagne Tasting

Friday and Saturday, 6:30pm – 10:30pm, Peacock Alley

Decadent, yes. Sinful, perhaps. Most certainly an experience for those with a sweet tooth. Peacock Alley will be transformed into a chocolate-lover’s dream, offering a cocoa-infused evening of self-indulgence paired with a selection of fine champagnes. Guests can choose from a signature selection of chocolate treats from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s world-class pastry team. Pricing varies.

The Art of Sushi Pairing

Friday and Saturday, Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

An exciting epicurean journey awaits as guests explore perfect pairings for our favorite sushi dishes including beer, sake and wine. Pricing varies.

Live Entertainment

Nightly at Peacock Alley

The Waldorf “Egg” -  20 - An entire frozen "egg" filled with Lavender Syrup, Blue Curacao,  Fresh Lemonade, ~Bombay Sapphire~
The Waldorf “Egg” – 20
– An entire frozen “egg” filled with Lavender Syrup, Blue Curacao, Fresh Lemonade, ~Bombay Sapphire~

Peacock Alley is centrally located in the heart of the main lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, overlooking the magnificent hand-crafted clock. With a nod to the stunning landmark restaurant of the same name in New York, Peacock Alley offers an irresistible menu of small-plate inspired cuisine for lunch and dinner, creative libations including our signature Peacock Egg, an exquisite wine selection and live entertainment nightly.

The Peacock “Egg” is one of the most creative cocktails we’ve ever seen in Orlando, a frozen shell made from a water balloon filled with water, burst, and drilled to fill with lemonade, blue curacao, bombay sapphire gin with lavender syrup served over a martini glass and neon blue LED lights and a base of blue sugar powder. Definitely a great conversation piece for our peacock friends.

Royal Tea – A New Waldorf Astoria Tradition

Sundays, 3pm – 5pm, Peacock Alley

Treasure time together as you savor finely-prepared tea sandwiches and house-made pastries, while sipping premium hot tea and listening to live piano music. Add a glass of champagne for a “Grand Royal Tea.” From $30 per adult; $15 per child, plus tax and gratuity.

Astoria After Dark

Friday and Saturday, 6pm – 10pm, WA Kids Club

Adults are not the only ones to have fun. The WA Kids Club is offering a nightly children’s program including dinner and a non-stop roster of fun activities – providing parents some “adult time” in which to experience Food & Wine Weekend activities.

All guests are invited to enjoy Food & Wine Weekend experiences.

FW-Event-Calendar-2014-wocropmarks-0918-1 FW-Event-Calendar-2014-wocropmarks-0918-2

We were recently invited to a media preview for the Bull and Bear’s Global Venture menu for the Food and Wine Weekends and continued to be impressed by the skill of the chefs and culinary team and the flavor profiles that they were able to bring out in their dishes.


SONY DSCAmuse-bouche:  Mushroom Sausage, Fennel Confit on a Parmesan Cheese Cracker

First Course:

Wisconsin Pride Cheese Souffle

SONY DSCWisconsin Pride  – A savory 4-year & 2-year Wisconsin cheddar cheese soufflé topped with crunchy roasted fava beans and pumpernickel croutons, paired with Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé, France 2012, an Old world Chardonnay with light oak that compliments the mild flavor of the cheddar.

Second Course:  Pasta Explosion

SONY DSCThe Pasta Explosion is one of my favorite dishes of all time – one of Bull and Bear’s signature dishes, it’s served with a special spoon to be eaten in one bite so that the full flavor explosion can be experienced. The pasta is a very delicate, homemade pasta filled with blended bellota pata negra ham; topped with beurre monté and aged reggiano parmesan cheese to pull the favors together. The dish is paired with Domaine de Triennes Rosé, France 2013, with aromas of strawberry and an olive finish; acidic enough to cut through the richness of the pata negra ham and reggiano parmesan in the pasta explosion.

Main Course:

Bull & Bear Fried Chicken

SONY DSCBull & Bear Fried Chicken takes over 12 hours to make. First, chicken breast is removed from 3-1/2 pound chicken with wing bone attached and skin intact, marinated in an alkaline brine for 12 hours and cooked sous-vide for 1-1/2 hours. The chicken is dredged in a buttermilk batter and topped with corn flake and corn meal then fried for 6 minutes; served with mashed potatoes and gravy made from foie gras, duck fat and demi-glace. The fried chicken is paired with L’Ecole Nº 41 Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington 2010, made with 80% Syrah 20% Grenache the light tannins lingering flavor of olive and cocoa contrast with the flavors of the fried chicken.

Tomahawk Ribeye

SONY DSCTomahawk Ribeye is a 38 oz. bone-in rib-eye from 32-day dry aged Allen Brothers beef with an entire rib bone attached and carved tableside alongside a lighted candle made from beef tallow, paired with Hugh Hamilton, Jekyll & Hyde Shiraz 2009, Australia


Bull & Bear Frittes

SONY DSCBull & Bear Frittes are crispy, delicious hand-cut Idaho potatoes soaked in malt vinegar and water then cooked in beef tallow; tossed in homemade garlic powder and served with garlic aioli and all natural ketchup. The frittes are so good they hardly need any aioli or ketchup for dipping.

SONY DSCWilted Spinach, lightly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fleur de sel sea salt, and fresh lemon juice and Aged Gruyere Cheese Potato Gratin made with roasted fingerling potatoes with aged Gruyere cheese and topped with a toasted brioche with aged Gruyere and 4-year aged Wisconsin cheddar.


The Lemon

  • Signature dessert; whole lemon cleaned out; rind cooked for 4 hours in a simple syrup reduction; filled with homemade lemon sorbet, lemon curd, and Chantilly cream; cut into perfect bites and topped with shortbread cookie tableside.

SONY DSCCrème Brûlée Flambée – Vanilla bean crème brûlée flambée with a hidden layer of dark chocolate crème on the bottom.

SONY DSCThe Cigar – Organic Mexican chocolate ganache center; chocolate wafer outside; ash made from merengue and colored with squid ink.

SONY DSCThe Napoleon – Puff pastry  with black walnut pastry cream; black walnuts soaked in 12-year-old aged Zaya Rum from Trinidad; dried merengue and dried raspberries.

Desserts paired with Weingut Angerhof-Tschida Samling Trockenbeerenauslese, 2002, Austria – this unique dessert wine from Austria is best described as a dessert in a glass, the thickness and mouth coating sweetness of this wine will definitely leave you  feeling satisfied.


Waldorf Astoria Orlando

14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando, FL 32821
Telephone: 407.597.5500
Reservations: 888.353.2009

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Situated on the top two floors of the Hyatt Regency hotel at Orlando International Airport, Hemisphere has some of the most breathtaking dining views in all of Orlando. Down below, diners can watch as the major airlines taxi along the airport’s runways, preparing for their initial ascent into the airspace and onto their next destination.

Hemisphere specializes in steaks and seafood and even has an award winning wine list. At first approach, I immediately thought the space could use some re-modeling – much like the one its sister restaurant, McCoy’s, recently underwent in order to modernize and update. For now, the space and decor, though bright and airy, is still very reminiscent of a 1990s era hotel restaurant.

Hyatt hotels all around the world recently launched a new global food philosophy – “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” focused on sourcing and providing healthy food and beverage options for Hyatt guests and also good for the local communities in which they reside and good for the planet.

On a recent media preview visit to Hemisphere, under the care of Sous Chef Tournant Jonathan Zimmerly, we started off our dinner with the house specialty, a peppery, savory crawfish cream chowder which first made its appearance on the Hemisphere menu when it first opened. My dining partner and I also sampled the blue crab cake served in a corn chowder as well as an heirloom tomato, basil, mozzarella salad – both were good.

The star of the evening was the whole yellow tail snapper flash fried with a chili lime soy broth and cilantro jasmine rice. When they mean whole yellow tail snapper, they really mean the entire fish from head to tail fried. Although the jasmine rice was oddly salty, the fish was fun to eat especially over rice. It reminded me of an old family meal dish we would have growing up, picking off the fish with our chopsticks around the family dinner table.

My dish was seared scallops on top of a caramelized onion tart and served with roasted wild mushrooms and garlic cream. I enjoyed the scallops but wish the caramelized onion tart had been more flaky and crispy rather than soggy.

Overall, I would definitely try Hemisphere again, especially after their re-modeling is completed.

An old fashioned Italian waiter statue greets guests in the front of Hemisphere
An old fashioned Italian waiter statue greets guests in the front of Hemisphere
Gorgeous window views of the runways below at the Orlando International Airport
Gorgeous window views of the runways below at the Orlando International Airport
The decor is reminiscent of 1990s Hotel-chic
The decor is reminiscent of 1990s Hotel-chic
House baked bread at Hemisphere
House baked bread at Hemisphere
Blue Crab, sautéed crab cake, sweet corn chowder - $13
Blue Crab, sautéed crab cake, sweet corn chowder – $13
Heirloom Tomato, Local Organic Basil, Mozzarella, Organic EVOO, Balsamic, Key West Sea Salt - $9
Heirloom Tomato, Local Organic Basil, Mozzarella, Organic EVOO, Balsamic, Key West Sea Salt – $9
Hemisphere's Crawfish Chowder, House specialty  - $8
Hemisphere’s Crawfish Chowder, House specialty – $8
Amuse bouche - raspberry gelato
Amuse bouche – raspberry gelato
Whole Yellow Tail Snapper, flash fried, chili lime soy broth, Cilantro Jasmine rice - $34
Whole Yellow Tail Snapper, flash fried, chili lime soy broth, Cilantro Jasmine rice – $34
Scallops, fresh from New England, seared, caramelized onion tart, roasted wild mushrooms, garlic cream - $32
Scallops, fresh from New England, seared, caramelized onion tart, roasted wild mushrooms, garlic cream – $32


Corn and Rice sides
Corn and Rice sides



Hemisphere Steak & Seafood at Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport
9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando, Florida, USA, 32827
Tel: +1 407 825 1234 Fax: +1 407 856 1672

Hemisphere Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon

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An exclusive preview of a luxurious lakeside resort within the gates of Walt Disney World Resort surrounded by beautiful gardens and emerald golf greens.

Located on Disney property, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando encompasses 26 acres with an 18-hole golf course, 5-acre Explorer Island water park/recreation area, and five restaurants with innovative dining options. Four Seasons Resort Orlando officially opens to the public on August 3.

Now what you call a grand entrance.


Chef Fabrizio Schenardi has joined the opening team of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort as Executive Chef. Schenardi will oversee the culinary operations for the Resort’s five on-property restaurants, plus in-room dining and catering culinary operations.

Schenardi has worked for the Pelagia Trattoria at Tampa Hotel International Plaza; the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in Dana Point, California; Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, in Los Angeles, California; and numerous other fine properties around the world.

Schenardi is from Rivoli, Italy, and speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish. His expertise is in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. He received his Culinary Arts Diploma from the Istituto Alberghiero Ravizza in Torino, Italy.

Dining Concepts

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort will offer a variety of dining concepts, available to both Resort guests and local Orlando area residents. From a swanky rooftop steakhouse concept to a lakeside Southern rotisserie grill and an Italian pizza and pasta family style restaurant, there is something for everyone.


A true highlight of the Resort will be Capa, the 17th-floor rooftop steakhouse and bar, featuring Spanish influenced cuisine in a romantic setting like no other. Capa’s diverse offerings range from freshly shucked oysters and Florida seafood to incredible small plates and expertly grilled cuts. An open kitchen and wood-burning grill allow diners to get close to the action, while those dining on the outdoor terrace enjoy views of the nightly fireworks. Capa, Spanish for a matador’s red cape, is decorated in black and white with bold hues of crimson accenting the space. An abstract painting conveying the movement of dust as it rises during the matador’s performance appears near the bar. Six traditional matador jackets flank the entrance to the private dining room, and a flowing red art installation travels across the ceiling, representing the flow of the matador’s cape. Capa, serving dinner only, will open in September 2014.


Named for the Italian seaside town situated above the Amalfi coast, modern Italian cuisine is the specialty at Ravello, the all-day dining restaurant at Four Seasons. Breakfast offerings include an omelet station and traditional breakfast favourites. Dinner offers fresh pizza and bread from the wood-burning oven, regionally influenced Italian specialties, and the open kitchen’s pasta bar. Ravello will offer a “Goofy & Pals” Disney Character Breakfast on Thursdays and Saturdays, and select Tuesdays during peak school break periods.


Whether taking a break from hitting the greens, or seeking a serene retreat, Plancha will delight with its fresh, bold flavour Cuban-American cuisine. Located at the Golf Clubhouse, Plancha – Cuban for grill – offers a picturesque lakeside setting. Signature dishes such as the Cubana sandwich, empanadas and chorizo burger offer an authentic taste of Cuba, and vibrant cocktails from the Mojito to the Hemingway Daiquiri are sure to please. Plancha will open in September 2014.

Lickety Split

For guests on the go, Lickety-Split provides delicious quick bites throughout the day. Café lattes and breakfast pastries, savoury quick bites, gelato and more will be offered at the colourful Lickety Split.


Premium American barbecue dishes, fresh salads, frozen cocktails and mocktails, an extensive kids’ and teens’ menu with lots of healthy options: the Pool Bar & Grill offers a lively, fun and casual atmosphere. This smokehouse and rotisserie serves up pulled pork, rotisserie chicken, smoked brisket and house-made hot dogs and burgers with plenty of Southern charm. Brightly painted picnic tables, teak floorboards, and whimsical lighting elements such as lanterns and stringed lights give the space a fun vibe.

Introducing: Luxury Meets Magic

Breathtaking lake view with good sunset photo opportunities..
Ravello Bar
Ravello Bar – THE place to connect, people-watch and indulge.
Ravello Restaurant – Modern Italian cuisine
So much attention to detail!
Ravello Restaurant Bar
Ravello Restaurant – live-action “show kitchen”
Ravello Restaurant – Seared Tuna on Eggplant Caponata
Ravello Restaurant – Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi’s Signature Ravioli {DELICIOUS}
The Oasis – Adults-only pool
PB&G {Pool Bar & Grill} – Smokehouse and rotisserie poolside restaurant
Absolut Peach Iced Tea
Absolut Peach Iced Tea
Rotisserie Chicken, Brisket & Fried Oyster
Stuffed “Deviled” Eggs with Caviar
Lickety-Split Lounge
Terra Sana – Medium Roast 100% Organic
Chocolate Cake
{Chocolate Cake} One of my favorite bites!
Key Lime Pie



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Address: 10100 Dream Tree Blvd, Orlando, FL 32836
Follow/Like: @FSOrlando
Instagram: #FSOpenings, #FSsneakpeek

For 27 years, The Peabody Orlando hotel was connected to the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive. In late 2010, a $450 million renovation of the hotel added a 32-story wing that doubled the number of rooms and an expansion tower that stands as the second tallest building in Orlando (behind the SunTrust tower in Downtown Orlando).

On October, 1 2013, The Peabody Orlando was sold to Hyatt Hotels and renamed Hyatt Regency Orlando.

With the change to Hyatt Regency, the Peabody’s trademarked Capriccio Grill was transformed into Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, with a new menu and a new chef de cuisine.

Fiorenzo, which means blossoming or flourishing in Italian, brings together the flavors an authentic Italian restaurant in Orlando and the tradition of a great American steak house. The restaurant is elegantly decorated, with dark black marble table tops and champagne gold touches accenting the dining room, and an open kitchen with a pizza oven operating to full capacity. The black and gold give it an almost Gatsby-esque feel, dapper for a hotel restaurant, a little old fashioned yet modern at the same time.

Looking inside Fiorenze Italian Kitchen
Looking inside, decor, at the Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

Chef Jimmy Stafford, the new Chef de Cuisine at Fiorenzo, has been a part of Hyatt Hotels Food and Beverage team for the past nine years. A graduate of Hyatt’s Culinary Training Program, Stafford has served as a chef at Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif., Chef de Cuisine at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, and Sous Chef for Andaz Wall Street in New York, N.Y.

Chef Stafford has created Fiorenzo’s brand new menu with his own creative twist, featuring signature dishes such as chocolate papardelle, 20oz prime bone-in rib eye, and bison carpaccio.

Chef de Cuisine Jimmy Stafford carving out slices of cured Spanish Iberico ham in the Fiorenzo kitchen

The new menu is composed of prime steaks, seafood entrees, creative pizza and pasta dishes, as well as select wines from an extensive wine cellar.

Our waiter, a Mr. Gokhan, is the definition of great service, offering helpful suggestions and checking up on our dining experience throughout the evening, making sure our drinks were full without being too intrusive. He actually had quite a resume as well, having worked as a head waiter on the Royal Caribbean cruiseline.

We started our dinner with the bison carpaccio and the endive and watercress salad.

Carpaccio is the Italian dish consisting of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and seasoned with lemon, or vinegar, olive oil, salt and ground pepper. The dish was named carpaccio after Vittore Carpaccio, the Venetian painter known for the characteristic red and white tones of his work.

The Bison Carpaccio here at Fiorenzo, like many of the dishes crafted by Chef Stafford and his team, are no less a work of art – beautifully red, thinly sliced cuts of bison drizzled with tangy, sweet juniper lemon vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of house-made cucumber yogurt, crispy julienned strips of green apple, kohlrabi cabbage, and fresh horseradish. The bison itself is delightfully refreshing and reminded me a lot of tuna, not too gamey but distinctly different from beef. I also enjoyed the crunchy texture of the green apple when eaten together with the tender bison slices.


Green Apple, Kohlrabi, Fresh Horseradish, Cucumber Yogurt, Juniper Lemon Vinaigrette – $17

My dining partner similarly enjoyed her endive & watercress salad, a refreshingly creative and unique combination of endive, watercress, golden delicious apple slices, watermelon, feta cheese, and candied pistachios all topped with a sweet pistachio dressing. The salad was at once sweet and tart with the combination of apple and watermelon fruit, and also savory with the nutty pistachios. I would definitely call this one of the best salad dishes here in Orlando today and enjoyed it even more than the bison carpaccio.

Golden Delicious Apple, Watermelon, Feta Cheese, Candied Pistachios and Pistachio Dressing – $14

Fiorenzo also has a nice selection of cheese and cured meat plates. The cheeses range from Smoked Scamorza, to Gorgonzola Picante, Truffled Pecorino, and Burrata alla Panna while the cured meats include Finocchiona, Bresaola, Wild Boar Salami, and Jamon Iberico.

IMG_1881 CHEESE & CURED MEATS – Served with Condiments & Crostini
Cheese: Smoked Scamorza, Gorgonzola Picante, Truffled Pecorino, Burrata alla Panna
Cured Meats: Finocchiona, Bresaola, Wild Boar Salami, Jamon Iberico

One of the strongest points at Fiorenzo is their list of house made specialty pasta dishes unlike any others found in Orlando. Take the Vesuvio pasta dish, a fabulous dish made with vesuvio pasta served with a Butternut Squash sauce base and topped with fresh sauteed spinach, sweet pear, shaved ricotta salata cheese, and roasted pine nuts. These curvy, spirally, squiggly pasta are shaped to resemble Mount Vesuvius, the famed Italian volcanic mountain, and its sea-shell like shape helps scoop in the delicious butternut squash sauce. The dish really makes Fiorenzo an exciting stand out among all the other Italian restaurants out there.


VESUVIO PASTA – Butternut Squash, Spinach, Fresh Pear, Ricotta Salata, Roasted Pine Nuts – $12/$22


RISOTTO OF THE DAY – Local Corn Risotto

My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed her grilled branzino, a European seabass fish, served with roasted cauliflower, parsnip puree, and cured orange salmoriglio, while I chose the more traditional, but no less impressive, 20 ounce prime bone in ribeye steak, grilled to perfection to a requested medium rare.


Roasted Cauliflower, Mache, Parsnip Purée, Cured Orange Salmoriglio – $36




We did not get a chance to try the pizzas at Fiorenzo, but the selection looked great and from where we were sitting, we could see the chefs preparing the pizza orders for other patrons at the restaurant that evening, hot and fresh out of the oven.


PEPPERONI – Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Parmesan Cheese – $15
MARGHERITA – San Marzano Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil, Sea Salt, Olive Oil – $15
FUNGI – Mixed Mushrooms, Arugula Pesto, Truffled Pecorino Cheese – $17
BLANCO – Roasted Garlic, Grilled Zucchini, Smoked Scamorza, Calabrian Chili – $15
SALSICCE – Lamb Sausage, Bitter Greens, Cured Olives, Ricotta, Mint

Chocolate Molten lava cake dessert at Fiorenzo
Chocolate Molten lava cake dessert at Fiorenzo
Mango fruit sorbet with blackberries
Mango fruit sorbet with blackberries

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse’s private room accommodates 50-100 people and the main dining room accommodates up to 200. Each month, Fiorenzo also hosts a wine dinner with a four-course menu. My dining partner and I were so impressed that we can not wait to return, especially with a group of our friends for a special occasion.

Patrons of Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse enjoy complimentary valet parking (valid for visits 4 hours and less). Serving dinner daily from 6p – 10p. To make a reservation call 407-345-4570 or click here.

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Orlando
9801 International Drive,
Orlando, Florida, USA, 32819

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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Just south of Walt Disney World off of I-4, a visit to Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate will transport you to a place where worries are far away. The recent addition of the “Ingredient of the Month” to their dining opportunities promoted by Omni’s Executive Chef Robert Ash will make you want to come visit the Omni soon, not to mention their 850-ft. lazy river, activity pool with slides and fountains, and a full course golfing experience.

Chef Robert Ash’s youthful looks belie his more than 20 years of experience, with a diverse background including training at L’Ecole Du Grand Chocolat in France and the International School of Confectionary Art in Maryland. His also served as Executive Chef of Milwaukee’s historic Preferred Hotel The Pfister, as well as Executive Chef/Director of Food and Beverage of the InterContinental Milwaukee and Executive Outlet Chef at the esteemed Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, rated Five-Star by Forbes and Five Diamond by AAA. Prior to that, Chef Ash worked at Parian Restaurant in the Regent International Hotel and for three-star Michelin Chef Jean Louis Palladin at Napa Restaurant in the Rio Suites Hotel of Las Vegas.

Chef Robert Ash recently told us about the new ingredient of the month events going on at the Omni. “I wanted to have the creative culinary team of chefs be able to showcase our local products here in Florida outside the standard menus we serve. So as I thought about it, I said why not feature one local based product a month and create weekly specials based on this ingredient and the seasonality of the ingredient.”

Omni's Executive Chef Robert Ash
Omni’s Executive Chef Robert Ash

“This would support our philosophy of supporting locally sustainable products and giving back to our community through food. So I took the seasons and created a 12 month calendar that would highlight a specific ingredient during the peak times available to us.”

“Our restaurant chefs now create 5 specials to showcase these outstanding ingredients from local farmers, fisherman, ranchers, foragers and such. We are also translating this into our catering side as well by creating fun local seasonal special menus for meeting planners to try something different than our traditional menu offerings which are far from traditional as it is.”


I recently visited David’s Club to preview the new Ingredient of the Month menu for Fresh Local Corn and was thoroughly impressed.

David’s Club is Omni’s upscale sports bar with flat-screen televisions, fine cigars and cognacs and hand-cut steaks. For after dinner enjoyment, the Players Lounge features pool tables, darts and foosball, and the cigar terrace sparks laid- back conversations. David’s Club is named after David Leadbetter, the internationally acclaimed golf instructor – Omni Orlando is the world headquarters for The Leadbetter Golf Academy.

The featured corn is from Apopka’s very own local Long and Scott Farms, and the dishes turned out rather fabulous with them.

I savored the hushpuppies, little golden balls of fried goodness filled with smoked gouda cheese, corn, and cherrywood bacon with a house malted tartar sauce. The shrimp and grits entree was probably my favorite of the bunch, made with plump shrimps chock full of cajun spices and flavors with a nice blend of cheesy corn grits as a base. The chicken and waffles, with corn crusted chicken and jalapeno and cheddar corn bread style waffles was delicious, but probably did not need the sriracha maple syrup – maybe just regular maple syrup would suffice without the vinegary sriracha. The dessert was also a favorite, a sweet corn cake served with sweet corn and bacon ice cream made in house and some sprinkling of salted caramel corn.

The chicken mole tamale was the only miss of the list, a little too dry and in need of seasoning – but I was told they may be adjusting the menu still and may replace this one later this month.

IMG_1724Hushpuppies $8
smoked gouda cheese, nueske’s cherrywood bacon, house malted tartar sauce

IMG_1723Chicken Mole Tamale $9
mole sauce, queso fresco, tomato

IMG_1736Chicken and Waffles $20
corn crusted chicken, jalapeno and cheddar corn waffles, sriracha maple syrup

IMG_1745Shrimp n Grits $24
cajun bbq local shrimp, cheddar cheese grits, corn chutney

IMG_1749Corn Cake $8
sweet corn and bacon ice cream, salted caramel corn

Trevi’s is Omni’s casual, Italian family eatery with breakfast buffets, brick oven flat breads, pizza and pasta, drawing flavor from its outdoor herb garden. It’s easy to write this place off as just another hotel restaurant due to the rather stereotypical hotel restaurant decor, but there is something there in the kitchen that makes the place stand out.

Although this was a more South American take on the traditional bruschetta, the crisp corn, buttery avocado, and tomato version for the corn menu was absolutely delicious and refreshing. I liked the sea scallops, though it could have used a different sauce than the madeira sauce which overpowered some of the other flavors going on. Maybe a butter sauce would have been better suited for this dish. The sweet corn upside down cake is not to be missed, quite a feat of sophisticated techniques infusing lavender with peach – very nice.

IMG_1765 Roasted Corn Bruschetta $8
tomato, roasted garlic, avocado, tarrago creme fraiche

IMG_1754Sea Scallops $12
grilled corn polenta, forest mushroom, madeira sauce

IMG_1767Atlantic Salmon $26
penne pasta, heirloom tomato, pancetta, corn pesto

IMG_1772Tuscan Chicken $22
corn risotto, charred roma tomato sauce

IMG_1774Sweet Corn Upside Down Cake $8
lavender scented peach, rosemary caramel, vanilla gelato

And in case you were wondering, next month’s ingredient of the month is local Florida shrimp.

IOTM Poster - JULY

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Omni Features Spectacular Washington State Wines from March 1 – May 31

Omni Hotels & Resorts’ popular culinary series, “Flavors of the World,” is back again this spring at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate with a spotlight on the wines of Washington State.

“Taste Washington” will feature many of Washington State’s best wines in Omni bars and restaurants across the U.S., and will be accompanied by a food pairing menu of Washington-inspired cuisine.

The brand-wide program, running through May 31, 2014, is in partnership with the Washington State Wine Commission, and serves as an extension of the state’s own Taste Washington, an annual month-long March event in celebration of the wines from the region.

As part of the 2014 Omni Food & Beverage symposium, Washington state wineries shared a variety of wines that were sampled and then selected by Omni’s culinary team. Each participating hotel will offer ten unique Washington State wines, in both six and nine ounce pours.


Omni Orlando Resort’s accompanying “Taste Washington” campaignstarting at $189/night, is available to guests through May 31, 2014, and includes an extra taste of the region with a Washington cheese plate, bottle of wine from Washington and the region’s finest apples delved in-room upon check-in.
Taste Washington is the highly anticipated 2014 Omni Flavors of the World campaign and joins a list of past annual programs. In the past, Omni Flavors of the World programs featured the wines and foods of Italy, Argentina, Spain and France.

 “We are proud to partner with Washington,” said David Morgan, vice president of food & beverage for Omni Hotels & Resorts. “Our Flavors of the World program was designed to offer our guests a unique experience, and we hope, with this installment, to further familiarize them with this incredible region by featuring some of the best wines in the country.”

The food pairing menu will be offered across participating hotels. With dishes inspired by local flavors and the indigenous cuisine of Washington State, guests can enjoy: Handmade Washington Cheeses served with fig jam, honey and olives, Dungeness Crab Fritters, Dungeness Crab and Snap Pea Soup, Apple and Fennel Salad, Roasted Salmon served with Wild Mushrooms and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Crab Fritters

To better understand the terroir and meet with featured wine makers, Omni food and beverage professionals undertook an intensive February trip that covered more than 50,000 acres of Washington State vineyards to experience and sample the wines first-hand. The team visited some of the 20 participating wineries, including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Hogue Cellars and Charles Smith Wines, gaining a deeper appreciation for the beautiful vineyards and vintages that will be showcased throughout Omni’s Taste Washington program.

Short Rib

Washington State is the No. 2 premium wine grape grower in the U.S. The diverse topography allows for ideal grape growing conditions, making it one of the world’s great wine regions. In fact, over the past five years, nearly 50 percent of Washington State wines reviewed by wine lifestyle magazine, Wine Spectator,have received a score of 90 points or more, a higher average than regions such as California, Italy, France and Oregon. Washington State also offers the lowest price for its 90 point wines compared to those same wine regions, proving that Washington State wine is not only consistently high quality, but offers great value.

“We are so pleased to share Taste Washington with Omni Hotels and its guests,” said Rob Andersen, marketing director of the Washington State Wine Commission.  “What makes Washington wines so unique is the fact that our fruit is amazing.  After more than a year of planning and in-depth wine culture immersion, Omni truly understands why our wines are so special and they are an incredible brand partner to help extend our program nationwide.”

Omni’s accompanying “Taste Washington” package, available to guests from March 7, 2014 – May 31, 2014, includes an extra taste of the region with a Washington cheese plate, Washington bottle of wine and Washington apple delivered in-room upon check-in.

For more information about Taste Washington, please visit

For additional information, watch the Taste Washington video by clicking here.Guests may visit or call 1-800-The-Omni. Travelers or media can also follow Omni Hotels & Resorts at

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Photos by Krystle Nguyen

Sushi Chef Asanuma Yoshio, better known as Chef Yoshi, practices his art inside Cascade American Bistro at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. Long time Orlando residents may recognize Chef Yoshi, formerly the owner of the two-decades old Sushiman restaurant in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, who had to close the restaurant in October of 2006 after huge rent increases from the landlord.

Chef Yoshi, formerly of Sushiman, working the sushi rice with his fingers
Chef Yoshi, formerly of Sushiman, working the sushi rice with his fingers at Cascade American Bistro

Since 2007, Chef Yoshi has been working his skill at the Grand Cypress, offering his high quality and delicious sushi makimono rolls, nigiri sushi, and otsumami (snacks/small plates) menu at the Cascade American Bistro.

His sushi bar is slightly hidden, off to the side with several tables allocated to it, but remains a popular choice among discerning diners and visitors to the hotel restaurant. Though he is modest, you can tell he is very proud of his sushi creations.

Chef Yoshi presenting a special sushi plate full of nigiri, sashimi, and a maki roll
Chef Yoshi presenting a special sushi plate full of nigiri, sashimi, and a maki roll

I only wish that his bar will also get a nice upgrade in the coming months once the renovations begin for the restaurant – something with proper seats at the bar to watch the sushi chefs at work and enjoy a nice conversation over some poured Japanese sake.

Chef Yoshi shows off his knife skills through not only beautiful flower creations cut from cucumbers and carrots, but also in the way he cuts his fish for the sushi. The key to great sushi, in addition to great sourcing of fish, lies in the sushi rice, here perfectly balanced with flavors of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Chef Yoshi is a traditionalist when it comes to sushi, preferring to let the ingredients speak for themselves and avoiding the trap laid by more Americanized sushi offerings like diluting flavors with heavy mayo sauces. Makimono roll prices range from $9 for simple tuna rolls to $19 for the dancing eel roll. Nigiri sushi prices range from $3 for tamago egg to $7.50 for uni sea urchin.


A fabulous California roll, stuffed with krab salad, sliced avocado, fresh, crisp cucumber, fish roe,  and sprinkled with sesame seeds on the outside
A fabulous California roll, stuffed with krab salad, sliced avocado, fresh, crisp cucumber, fish roe, and sprinkled with sesame seeds on the outside
Sweet Raw Shrimp "Ama Ebi" with head on - This is probably for the more advanced level sushi lovers out there, but definitely worth a try here under Chef Yoshi's care. I've had raw shrimp before in Tokyo, but the one prepared here was 10 times better, just sweet and smooth. Make sure to remove the head before eating though.
Sweet Raw Shrimp “Ama Ebi” with head on – This is probably for the more advanced level sushi lovers out there, but definitely worth a try here under Chef Yoshi’s care. I’ve had raw shrimp before in Tokyo, but the one prepared here was 10 times better, just sweet and smooth. Make sure to remove the head before eating though.
Salmon roe sushi - little, salty pearls of fish eggs that just pop in your mouth with flavors of the sea.
Salmon roe sushi – little, salty pearls of fish eggs that just pop in your mouth with flavors of the sea.
Unagi eel nigiri sushi - nicely grilled
Unagi eel nigiri sushi – nicely grilled
Tamago - a sweet Japanese egg omelet prepared with a little mirin rice wine and sugar, can be one of the hardest things to master in the sushi world. Done well here, with flavors on par with tamago found in the streets on the outer markets of Tsukiji in Tokyo.
Tamago – a sweet Japanese egg omelet prepared with a little mirin rice wine and sugar, can be one of the hardest things to master in the sushi world. Done well here, with flavors on par with tamago found in the streets on the outer markets of Tsukiji in Tokyo.
Dynamite Roll, Spider Roll, and Volcano Roll
Dynamite Roll, Spider Roll, and Volcano Roll
Dynamite roll - tuna with wasabi mayo and cucumber, sprinkled with  sesame seeds  and sliced green onion on the outside
Dynamite roll – tuna with wasabi mayo and cucumber, sprinkled with sesame seeds
and sliced green onion on the outside
Volcano roll - chopped scallop, spicy mayo on top of California roll with cream cheese
Volcano roll – chopped scallop, spicy mayo on top of California roll with cream cheese
Seek out Chef Yoshi and his sushi chef partner soon at Cascade American Bistro, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Seek out Chef Yoshi and his sushi chef partner soon for some of the freshest sushi in town at Cascade American Bistro, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

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Although most readers may be familiar with A Land Remembered, one of my favorite places for steak in town – nearby Cala Bella – also located at Rosen Shingle Creek – is not on most people’s radars even though it is one of the few AAA Four Diamond rated restaurants in town.


Cala Bella is Rosen Shingle Creek’s upscale Italian restaurant features inspired Italian classics with a Mediterranean and American twist, accompanied by an extensive wine list.

The inspiration of the name Cala Bella, or “Beautiful Creek” in English, comes from owner Mr. Harris Rosen’s celebration of Florida’s history and the unique history of Shingle Creek itself.


Visitors can sit in the main dining room and enjoy the sunset over the golf course outside or view the open kitchen and watch the chefs prepare dishes over open flames.

The Cala Bella sampler platter is a good start, a hearty platter filled with house made meatballs, calamari fritte, bruschetta Cala Bella, and antipasto.


My dining partner, a seafood lover, ordered the Cala Bella seafood pescatore – a must try, slightly spicy, very flavorful and earthy saffron tomato broth serves as the base for this dish in which Australian lobster tail, Little Neck clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops are braised.

Cala Bella seafood pescatore
Cala Bella seafood pescatore

I ordered the hefty, succulent rack of marinated herb roasted Cala Bella New Zealand lamb chops with pickled garlic, shallots, and rosemary minted marsala, accompanied with a side of the daily risotto. Fantastic.

 Cala Bella New Zealand lamb chops
Cala Bella New Zealand lamb chops


Prices are geared more towards the expense account carriers out there, but locals can have a good bargain by going on and getting a discounted gift certificate to Cala Bella to make it more budget friendly.

Cala Bella Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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The Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World hosted its 4th Annual Food and Wine Classic last weekend October 18-19, 2013 featuring a diverse selection of innovative cuisine by award-winning chefs.

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Returning for its fourth year, the Food and Wine Classic features resort chefs’ dishes and drinks from around the world.

Signature restaurants that participated include Shula’s Steak House, Il Mulino New York Trattoria and Todd English’s bluezoo – all located on the premises of the Swan and Dolphin hotel.

There is a certain magic about the Food and Wine Classic that leaves me in complete awe. From the educational seminars to exploring culinary innovation, my mind and taste buds were deeply satisfied.

I had the opportunity to join the festivities on Friday evening and the view of the sunset glistening over the water with talented musicians performing in the background made this evening perfect.

Tony Porcellini has been with the Swan and Dolphin for 26 years and oversees 17 restaurants on the property. He is noted for his groundbreaking concepts and venues, such as Shula’s Steakhouse and Bluezoo.

The most valuable part of my evening was attending the Wine Blending Seminar with Tony Porcellini, Certified Sommelier and Director of Food and Beverage.

Tony explores the origin, flavor, and characteristics of the five classic Bordeaux red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

It was truly a delight to create my own red wine blends while pairing it with delicious samples of cheese and jelly – what fun!


From the art of pasta making, champagne, sake, beer, to white and red wines, there were plenty of seminars to choose from of which I wish I had the time to learn from them all.

Experimenting with a plastic measuring pipette to fill different percentages of the component wines
The beginning of my bordeaux blend creation – 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Petit Verdot


Shula’s Steak House: Carved Prime Rib, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Horseradish, Creme Fraiche, Watercress
Cabana Bar & Beach Club: Belle & Evans Farm Chicken Yakitori, Edamame Relish, Lemongrass Foam
Todd English’s Bluezoo featuring the freshest seafood
Todd English’s Bluezoo: Oyster Shooter, Huckleberry Champagne Vinegar, Huckleberry Foam
Bluezoo team uses liquid nitrogen to prepare one of the components in the tuna tartare
Bluezoo’s Molecular Gastronomy – miso is cooked and frozen in liquid nitrogen to create cracklins for the tuna tartare
Todd English’s Bluezoo: Tuna Tartare, Sexy Scallions, Nitro Aioli Miso Crackling
Todd English’s Bluezoo: Rock Shrimp Tacos, Creamy Jalapeno Slaw, Pickled Onion Micro Cilantro
Il Mulino New York Trattoria: Preparing hand cut garganelli with veal cheek ragu
The Fountain: Falafel with Chick Pea Fritter, Tahini, and Traditional Garnish
Fresh Mediterranean Market: Thai Chicken Salad, Organic Greens, Green Papaya, Tamarind with Ginger Dressing
Garden Grove: Open Face Tomato & Handcrafted Mozzarella Sandwich, Sweet Basil, Locatelli
Todd English’s Bluezoo: “Short Rib Oscar”: Braised Beef Short Rib, Maryland Blue Crab, Asparaus, ISI Hollandaise
Todd English’s Bluezoo: “Short Rib Oscar”: Braised Beef Short Rib, Maryland Blue Crab, Asparaus, ISI Hollandaise
Picabu: Taqueria-Corn Tortilla Barbacoa of Beef, Braised Pork, Organic Vegetables, Cheddar Cheese, Lime Wedge, Lettuce, Onion, Shaved Radish, Pico de Gallo with a hint of hot sauce
Picabu Barbacoa of Beef and Braised Pork Tacos
Kimonos: Crispy Shrimp, Tuna, Salmon, Avocado Sushi
Cib’s Smokehouse: Texas Style Beef Brisket, Brioche Puree, Rhubarb Pudding
“O Saint O” Orange Cream Filled Puff, Milk Chocolate Covered Orange Cookie and Vanilla Whipped Cream
“Tropic” (Shot Glass) Passion Fruit Cream, Mango Papaya Pineapple Compote, Coconut Cake, Mango Vanilla Sauce
“Intense” Flourless Chocolate Sponge and Arriba 72% Chocolate Mousse
Plate of Delectable Pastry and Desserts! My mouth is watering just remembering the taste of all this..

The event is so vibrant that you can enjoy it with a group of friends or your significant other for a fun date.

With over 40 food and beverage stations, there was never a moment wasted as you can imagine the endless myriad of dishes and wines. And the experience would not have been complete without the wine blending seminar.

Some of my favorites included Shula’s Carved Prime Rib, Todd English’s Short Rib Oscar and Oyster Champagne Shooters.

Each dish was prepared fresh to order and fast on-site to accommodate the large number of attendees while still maintaining the flavors and quality. I really appreciate the amount of effort it took to plan a beautiful evening and the friendly representation at every booth. Well done to the entire team at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin for the Food and Wine Classic! Can’t wait till next year’s selections – only 12 months away…

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Photos by‘s Krystle Nguyen

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek resorts are hosting the third annual Orlando Food & Wine Weekends, which runs Friday and Saturday evenings Sept. 27 – Nov. 9, 2013. The menus that the restaurants are running this year both surprised and delighted my taste buds and were truly a culinary experience to seek out. This past weekend, I was invited to visit and sample some of the menus available.

For seven weekends, the resorts are featuring these special programming and events aimed to complement and “fill the gaps” around the wildly popular Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival held at the nearby Disney theme park.

They are serious here about food.



“For the past 19 years, Disney has done an amazing job of building their Food & Wine Festival at Epcot,” said Peter Kacheris, managing director of Waldorf Astoria Orlando. “As the festival has grown, so has the public’s appetite for additional culinary-focused experiences. We’ve created our Orlando Food & Wine Weekends to highlight our own world-class culinary team while we complement the Epcot festival.”

Orlando Food & Wine Weekends events will be held at Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and at its sister resort, Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, located less than one mile from Epcot, and accessible inside the gates of Walt Disney World® Resort.

Event highlights include:

• A Taste of Waldorf Astoria® at the Bull and Bear Restaurant
Exclusive tasting menus and wine pairings from the master chefs of many of the most renowned hotels in the Waldorf Astoria brand. Guests will enjoy a degustation menu comprised of some of the most celebrated dishes from Waldorf Astoria hotels around the world, paired with exquisite wines. The menu features dishes from Rome to France to New Orleans and right here in Orlando. Offered Friday and Saturday evenings, 6pm – 11pm, Bull & Bear.

• Il Cibo Della Vita at La Luce by Donna Scala
From the kitchen of La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, each weekend from Sept. 27 – Nov. 9, a new tasting menu and wine pairing will be unveiled, featuring chef Scala’s newest recipes – many being presented for the first time. This series of culinary experiences is certain to be the talk of the town! Friday & Saturday evenings, 5pm – 11pm, La Luce by Donna Scala.

• Pea Ringu – The Art of Sushi Pairing at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge
An exciting epicurean journey awaits as the culinary team of Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge explore perfect pairings for our favorite sushi dishes including beer, sake and wine. Friday and Saturday evenings, Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

• Bar du Chocolat and champagne tasting
Decadent, yes. Sinful, perhaps. Most certainly an experience for those with a sweet tooth. Peacock Alley will be transformed into a chocolate-lovers’ dream, offering a cocoa-infused evening of self-indulgence paired with a selection of fine champagnes. Guests can choose from a signature selection of chocolate treats from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s world-class pastry team using recipes from the most romantic points of the globe. Friday and Saturday evenings, 6pm – 10pm, Peacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.



• Live Entertainment – nightly at Peacock Alley

• Royal Tea, A New Waldorf Astoria Orlando Tradition
Guests will treasure time together as they savor finely-prepared tea sandwiches and house-made pastries while sipping premium hot tea and listening to live piano music. Sundays, 3pm – 5pm, Peacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

• Astoria After Dark – Adults are not the only ones to have fun. The WA Kids Club is offering a nightly children’s program including dinner and a non-stop roster of fun activities – providing parents some “adult time” in which to experience Orlando Food & Wine Weekends activities. Friday and Saturday evenings, 6pm – 10pm.

Photos taken by Krystle Nguyen with the Nikon D5000 DSLR

Pea Ringu – The Art of Sushi Pairing at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge


The sushi at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge, made by some of Orlando’s best sushi chefs, is among some of the best I found in town. The decor is ultra modern and the setting is reminiscent of a swanky night club.

The tasting menu at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge features chef-inspired sushi served in a bento box and paired with specially selected beverages all for $35.




 Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake,  Schloss Vollrads Kabinett 2011, Takara Plum Wine, Cigar City Florida Cracker White Ale

Pea Ringu bento box
Pea Ringu bento box


Nori Cracker – Seared Tuna served over Nori Crackers with Avocado, Spicy Mayo and Smelt Roe – Paired with Cigar City Florida Cracker White Ale


Bonzai Roll – Spicy Tuna Roll topped with Barbequed Eel, Avocado, Eel Sauce and Tempura Crunch and served with a sample of Red Snapper and Salmon Nigiri- Paired with Schloss Vollrads Kabinett 2011


Fried Dumplings – Pork Gyoza and Vegetables fried with a Ginger and Shallot Vinaigrette – Paired with Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake


Fire Cracker – Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, topped with Tobiko Yuzo dressing, Tamari Shoyu and Truffle Oil – Paired with Takara Plum Wine


Hiyashi Wakame – Classic Japanese Seaweed Salad – Paired with Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake 

A Taste of Waldorf Astoria® at the Bull and Bear Restaurant


The Bull and Bear Restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is one of the finest restaurants in Orlando and is probably one of the most overlooked – the food here blew my and my dining companions’ gastronomic minds on our recent visit.

The restaurant  is led by Executive Chef Massimo Falsini, a world class chef who has served as Executive chef at Hilton in Dubai along with Sous Chef Daniel Tederous, a former executive chef at The Capital Grille, Tampa, along with a list of fine restaurants in Atlanta.

If Orlando had a Michelin guide, the Bull and Bear at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando would be one of the few restaurants in Orlando I could see easily making the list.

The tasting menu “A Taste of Waldorf Astoria” may sound a bit humble, but look closer and realize that it is a compilation of 7 dishes from all the best Waldorf Astorias from all around the world, including Orlando. Truly the definition of the ultimate luxurious foodie dream, and well worth the $110 per person, plus tax and gratuity.





Rome Cavalieri (La Pergola, 3 Michelin Starred) – Rome, Italy

DSC_6370 Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah – Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

DSC_6384 Trianon Palace Versailles (Gordon Ramsay au Trianon) – Versailles, France


DSC_6392 The Roosevelt New Orleans – New Orleans, France

DSC_6401 Waldorf Shanghai on the Bund – Shanghai, China

DSC_6406 Waldorf Astoria Orlando

DSC_6450 Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Germany
BERLINER PFANNKUCHEN, raspberry creme filled donut


Both hotels are offering packages that include a $50 resort/dining credit. The popular Best of Waldorf Astoria package includes deluxe accommodations, a $50 daily dining/resort credit, and complimentary scheduled transportation to Epcot® (and other Disney theme parks). Rates starting from $269 per night. For more information or reservations, please visit , or call +1 888-353-2009, and reference promotion code PBBWW1.

At Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, the Bonnet Creek Fall Retreat package includes deluxe accommodations, a $50 daily dining/resort credit, daily parking and internet and complimentary scheduled transportation to Disney theme parks. Rates starting from $199 per night. For more information or reservations, please visit, or call +1 888-353-2013, and reference promotion code BCFT.

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The Crimson Tavern – a new contemporary American restaurant – recently opened inside the Orlando Airport Marriott off of Semoran Blvd with a focus on sourcing local ingredients. This is a worldwide theme among the Marriott hotel restaurants, as those who are familiar with Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at the World Center Marriott and Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes know, there has really been a big push in the past few years to source higher quality, local ingredients. Primo is one of the first to lead the way here in Central Florida in that philosophy.

They take the locally sourced concept up a notch here at Crimson Tavern, under the helm of Executive Chef Tony Hull, with a 5000 square foot chef’s garden at the back of the hotel near the pond.

Where there used to be a mostly unused volleyball court, now sits a space that could be used for events as well as rows of chard, peppers, herbs, mango and other delightful and surprising vegetables and fruits. These greens are then picked to be used as ingredients for the night’s specials or other dishes, whatever mother nature allows.

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Chef Tony Hull inspects some of the greens in the garden at the Orlando Airport Marriott

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Peppers growing in the chef’s garden

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Squash blossoms in bloom

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 Chards and greens

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For those ingredients not found in their garden, they source heavily from a list of local farms and companies such as:

Winter Park Honey
Satur Farm
Long & Scott Farm
Lake Meadows Naturals
Palmetto Creek
Creekstone Natural Angus
Tanglewood Farms Poultry
MyYard Farm
Loch Duarte Salmon
Uncle Matts Citrus
Muse Gelato
Orlando Brewing Company

As a part of a recent media dinner at The Crimson Tavern, I was able to experience some of the offerings found here at the new restaurant. Inside the hotel, the restaurant takes over the space previously occupied by the Porterhouse steakhouse and is now refurbished with dark reds and grays, giving it an almost American colonial feel.

The dinner menu is comprised mostly of small plates and appetizers conducive as accompaniments to drinking, but there is also a list of heartier entree items like steaks, fish, burger and pork dishes if you so choose.

For a tavern, I would have expected more than 6 of the craft beers listed on their menu, in addition to the usual line up of domestics and imports, but maybe they will be adding more in the future to their drink offerings. There is however a very nice selection of cocktails and wines along with the beers that guests can enjoy.

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Starting off at the top of the menu is their selection of cured meats and cheeses entitled “Room & Board” with plates like salumi, Benton ham, and cheeses.

The salumi plate was a favorite, coming with sopressata molinari, spicy coppa, speck, mortadella, served with bread selection, house pickled trio and mustard.

The Benton ham selection is a colorful board with cured Tennessee country ham with a side of pepper jelly and delicious warm baked biscuits.

Also, the Australian goat feta cheese with olive oil cheese plate selection was savory and decadent – I wanted to finish the whole plate of cheeses. I think I would have been satisfied with just these three dishes for the meal.

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Salumi 16
sopressata molinari, spicy coppa, speck, mortadella, served with bread selection, pickle trio and mustard

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Benton Ham 9
tennessee country ham with a side of pepper jelly, warm biscuits

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Cheese 8
served with specialty bread and cracker selection
creamy goat feta, australia – extra virgin olive oil, pistachio

Other satisfying appetizers and bites from the menu included a fantastic house baked Soft Pretzel, served warm with beer-smoked cheddar dip and Fried Green Tomatoes, with black pepper aioli.

The African and southern influenced Black Eyed Hushpuppies, served with a cilantro chutney, was a delicate, interesting take on the usually boring appetizer.

The House Burger, made with juicy, tender beef and topped with caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, house made bread & butter pickles, on sesame bun was one of my favorite burgers that I have had this year but may be a bit pricy at $16.

The ribeye steak with house mustard greens was also a favorite, very tender and flavorful with a nice sear at the perfect requested medium rare temperature.

There were a few items that I weren’t such a big fan of like the Smoked Trout Rillette, which needed a little more creamy texture and flavor, and the Boudin Noir Sausage with apple slaw and the beef cheek empanadas which both had some flavors that I personally disagreed with.

Make sure to save room for dessert though, as the Crimson Tavern’s specialty “Knickerbocker Glory” is definitely something to try. The Knickerbocker Glory is named for the traditional british ice cream sundae, made with locally crafted milk gelato from Muse Gelato layered extra high with decadent toppings, creams, crumbles and drizzles. The choices come as:

Key Lime, tangy graham cracker crumbs, toasted marshmallow
Warm Butterscotch, salted peanuts, whipped cream, crumbled ginger snaps
Brownie, dark and white chocolate, brownie bits, chocolate cream, piroutte cookie
Classic, mixed berries, raspberry puree, whipped cream, gaufrette wafer, cherry on top

Overall, the Crimson Tavern left me with a very favorable impression, with dishes that aren’t afraid to push the bounds of every day fare found in Orlando, yet also quite tasty and fun to eat. I can imagine myself coming here often after work to share a few drinks with friends and bites, especially as there are so few good options in the Orlando International Airport/Lake Nona area. Hopefully they can continue to improve on their menu and will become a popular spot among not only those flying in and out of the airport, but with local Orlando denizens as well.

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Soft Pretzel, served warm with beer-smoked cheddar dip 8

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Anthony Hull –  Executive Chef

Inspired by both his English born grandmothers, at the age of 13, Anthony began cooking by their side in their kitchens in England. His “hands on” experience baking, pickling, making jams from fruits harvested from the garden created a passion for cooking that is still strong 30 years later.

Turning his passion into a career, Chef Hull studied in London, England before beginning his first culinary position at the Café Royale in London. To gain as much experience as possible Chef Hull then took a position as a pastry cook at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel, London under Executive Chef Uwe Zander

Seeking International experience, Chef Hull accepted a position in the Cayman Islands with the Hyatt Regency Resort and then The Westin Cauarina Beach Resort and Spa overseeing Casa Havana the only four star restaurant located on the island at the time.

A proven accomplished chef, he accepted an opportunity in Tampa, Florida and then in 2002 joined Marriott International.

Trained in classical French cooking. Chef Hull takes these basic fundamentals and techniques and applys them with a modern twist to showcase the ingredient in its purist form embracing the seasons and local artisans.

When he is able to take time away he enjoys spending family time teaching his children to cook or exploring new restaurants and cuisines with his Wife

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Lake Meadows Deviled Egg 8

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Fried Green Tomatoes, black pepper aioli 6

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Black Eyed Hushpuppies, cilantro chutney 6

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manchego, spain – quince paste, fig jam

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Boudin Noir Sausage, apple slaw 11

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Beef cheek empanadas

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Chicken liver mousse

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Ribeye steak with house mustard greens

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House Burger, caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, bread & butter pickles, sesame bun 16

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Warm Butterscotch Knickerbocker Glory

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Crimson Tavern on Urbanspoon

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On Saturday January 26, 2013, Orlando World Center Marriott opened their newest restaurant, Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen, which takes the place of their previous Italian restaurant Ristorante Tuscany. I was recently invited by the team at Siro’s to sample some of their dishes during a media event. The space has undergone major renovations, now highlighting a more warm, wooded and industrial atmosphere…which reminded me of a particular favorite restaurant of mine in Winter Park.

I was delighted to find that the new philosophy for the restaurant was an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients. More and more restaurants are turning toward local and seasonal and I wholeheartedly support this movement, particularly because the food tastes so much better when it isn’t being shipped from halfway across the world.

The list of local farms and ingredients include:

Lake Meadow Farms – eggs and honey
Harvest Moon – produce
Seely’s Ark – chicken thighs
Dansk Farms – honey
Waterkist Farms – heirloom tomatoes
Cedar Creek farms –little neck clams
Infusion Tea- hot tea
Oyster Island mushroom company- asst. mushrooms
Monroe Ashby- pig
Coffee Roasters’ Alliance -coffee
Two Doves Organic Farm- lettuce, Swiss chard, kale.
Cigar City Brewing – craft beer

They will start using Palm Ridge whiskey in the next few weeks as well.

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Aged Italia – Breckenridge bourbon, blood orange aged balsamic, blackberry syrup

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Beer flights featuring craft beer and imports

From artisan cured meats and cheeses, small plates and fresh market vegetables, dishes served on oversized wooden planks, thin-crust pizzas and house-made pastas to various meats and fish selections, Siro has made a strong emphasis on quality sourced food.  Some of my favorites included the  Green, eggs & ham pizza with arugula, prosciutto, sunny side egg, the housemade burger, Chef Burdo’s veal meatballs, and the zeppole donuts for dessert.

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Executive Chef Burdo at the helm of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen

These signature dishes enhance the restaurant’s extensive drink menu, as bartenders and mixologists prepare handcrafted Italian classics from the Negroni and Aperol Spritz to the “The Artisan,” Lemoncello Martini – complete with fresh squeezed juices and fragrant herbs.

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Chef Burdo’s Famous Veal meatballs in a pomodoro tomato sauce

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Siro’s Charcuterie boards of cheeses, olives, and cured meats

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Eggplant Caponata served with whipped ricotta cheese on bakehouse bread

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Arborio fritters, made with rice robiola, black garlic, and a spicy arrabiata sauce

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Margherita Pizza

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Bucatini pasta with the red lead, a traditional sunday gravy

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The BuRGeR – oWC bakehouse bun, house pickles

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Preparing the whole Grilled Grouper, served with braised fennel, peperonato

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Braised pork shank on top of white beans

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Aged Italia
Breckenridge bourbon, blood
orange aged balsamic,
blackberry syrup

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Desserts, like this panna cotta – milk chocolate, berries, are led by award winning pastry chef Ramon Perez

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Chocolate Cake

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Siro accommodates 199 guests – 143 in the main dining room and 56 on the patio – for everyday dining and special events. The early-evening menu, from 4 – 6 pm, features Antipasti, small plates, pizza and blackboard specials, in addition to a full bar. Dinner, from 6 – 11 pm, features a full menu.

For additional information on Siro, call Orlando World Center Marriott at 407-239-4200 or visit and

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Anna of the Zimmerman Agency with Mark Baratelli of and Rachelle Lucas of Visit Florida Dining and

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The wonderful staff and chefs of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at Orlando World Center Marriott

Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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I had always thought it was a bit odd for a restaurant named after the famous wine country in California to be specializing in “local, fresh” Florida dishes, but Napa, located inside the Peabody Hotel next to the Orange County Convention Center, brings not only an extensive wine list but also the sustainable farm-to-fork cuisine first popularized by the Napa Valley region.

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Napa brings the local, organic, sustainable movement to Florida with dishes like steamed Cape Canaveral Clams in an Orlando Brewing Red Ale broth, whole fried Yellowtail Snapper with escabeche rice and fried plantains, and Florida Heritage chicken confit quesadillas.

The restaurant itself is very modern, with a beautiful bar area and earth toned fittings, and wine bottles lined up along the walls and around the restaurant. I recently visited Napa to take advantage of the Visit Orlando Magical Dining Month specials. The prices here typically are on the level of fine dining, but the Magical Dining special this September enables locals to try the restaurant out and experience three courses with the high quality of food for a very reasonable price point of $30.

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For appetizer, I ordered a very fresh, very delicious orange braised Heart of Christmas beet salad, made with arugula, Winter Park bleu cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic orange beet vinaigrette, featuring local vegetables from Heart of Christmas farms. The little orange pieces just bursted with flavors, and everything was very tasty, as if they were picked off the farm just this morning. If only the produce at local supermarkets tasted the same I think we would have a much easier time eating our veggies. My partner chose the tangy, tart Fire roasted Waterkist Farm Heirloom Tomato soup, made with tomatoes from local Waterkist Farms of Winter Park, and a dollop of basil creme fraiche.

For entree, I chose the Meyer Ranch Natural Beef Filet (typically $42 alone on the regular menu), a hearty piece of filet mignon steak, seared to perfection and the exactly requested medium rare, served with fingerling potatoes, fall vegetable hash in a salty red wine reduction. The beef filet was very filling and savory, and the accompaniments tasted great as well. My partner chose the Cioppino, a southern twist on the California favorite, composed of a spicy stew of mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, and paprika rouille.

For the dessert, I chose the Amaretto Dark Chocolate Bar, a creamy, sticky, decadent, yet surprisingly light chocolate dessert served with a side of cafe latte gelato and topped with caramelized popcorn. This is probably one of my favorite desserts of all time after this experience. My partner chose the likewise delicious rustic apple tart, served with vanilla ice cream and roasted pecan.

Service here was good, but not the greatest, and certainly not what I expected from a fine dining restaurant. Our server was friendly, but disappeared for rather long lengths of time. I noticed that it may have been due to a staff shortage, as there were several other parties around us that were waiting for service as well.

Overall, I thought Napa at The Peabody Hotel executes the philosophy of Napa Valley, of local, fresh, and sustainable fare whenever possible with great flair and is definitely worth a try, especially if you love fresh, delicious tasting food.

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Blistered tomatoes, basil crème fraiche, napa extra virgin olive oil

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Arugula, winter park blue cheese, fiery candied pecans, balsamic orange beet vinaigrette

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Mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, paprika rouille

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Fingerling potato and fall vegetable hash, red wine reduction

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Café latte gelato and caramelized pop corn

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Burnt vanilla ice cream, roasted pecan

Napa at The Peabody on Urbanspoon

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